Sep 27, 2018 in Healthcare

Green Information Technology in Healthcare

Introduction

With the advancement in technology, many things have changed for the better. However, the invention and advancement in technology gives people, society, government and enterprises a new but significant task: dealing with an environment related issues as well as engaging environmentally sound practices (Carayon, 2012). Over the years, information technology (IT) has fundamentally altered many people’s work and life and improved their productivity, economy and social well-being. For this reason, the world can manage an environment that is more sustainable and greener through the adoption of some IT practices which may help in the creation of a beneficial economy and one that is socially valuable. However, IT has been contributing to environmental problems that most people do not realize. Most information and technology devices use electricity which turns out to be an electric grid burden and may contribute to the production of greenhouse gases. The greenhouse gases are very harmful especially in destroying the ozone layer which leads to global warming. In addition, the production as well as disposal of Information and Technology related hardware is likely to negatively affect the environment.

Even though a number of people feel that IT plays a significant role in environmental pollution, advancement in technology has proved that IT use in environmental conservation can have positive results as far as reduction of environmental pollution is concerned. Information and technology innovations if applied in dealing with environment issues can go a long way in proving what IT can do in sustaining the environment (Aronson, 2008; Ruth, 2009). A study that deals with design, manufacture as well as use of computer related devices including communications and systems that enable networking in ways that affect the environment positively is termed as the Green IT (Murugesan, 2007, 2008, 2012). In addition, Green IT as well, involves the use of information and technology in supporting, assisting and leveraging environmentally related initiatives along with helping in green awareness creation (Murugesan, 2012). Therefore, for green IT to be successful, there should be the interplay of strategies, tools, software, as well as better practices which, are aimed at the development and sustainability of the environment.

Perhaps one would ask what benefit the environment gets from Green IT. The main ones revolve around an improvement in the energy efficiency, reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, making use of materials that are less harmful to the environment as well as adoption of recycling and reuse practices as a way of sustaining the environment. From the foregoing, one can conclude that green IT takes in account issues related to environmental sustainability, practices geared at attaining the energy efficiency along with cumulative ownership cost. Nowadays, businesses are going green due to the need to avoid greenhouse gas emissions along with the enactment of rules and regulations governing waste disposal and environmental conservation.

However, green IT can never be fostered without enough knowledge in the following issues. Does Information and technology impart negatively to the environment? If it does, what are the main areas of concern? Are there any IT issues related to the environment that ought to be addressed? What practices can be adopted to ensure that the IT infrastructure and related practices and products are environmentally friendly? What about any set rules and standards regarding to reduction of environmental pollution. Lastly, what is the role of IT in assisting societies and businesses in improving the state of the environment?

Impact of IT on the Environment

There are a number of ways through which IT can affect the state of the environment. IT provides the environment with problems right from the original stages of computer production, usage, as well as their disposal. During the manufacture of computer and computer-related devices, hazardous waste is produced which is very harmful to the environment. Such waste materials contribute in increasing the levels of greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere.

There is a considerable rise in the number of people who make use of computers regularly. Such usage makes the amount of energy consumed to increase with the same rate as well. The implication is that, large volumes of greenhouse gases are released. In approximation, every personal computer gives out carbon dioxide that is relatively about a ton in a year. The raw materials for computer components are naturally toxic (Carayon, 2012). These materials tend to cause pollution to the environment when they are carelessly disposed. The main method of waste disposal that is commonly used in the whole world is the landfill process. The disposed materials in effect pollute water bodies and other environs.

Background

Back in the nineties, computing gained popularity that led to the understanding of how important green technology was to the environment, as well as the people living in it. During this era, many rules and regulations were set that led to the incorporation of green technology in most companies’ agendas.

Green technology therefore, can be seen as that science of applying technology in daily activities in order to come up with solutions that are environmentally viable. The technology serves to curb human involvement in polluting the environment as well as finding solutions to environmental conservation. There was a need for addition of computer servers in almost all places in a bid to increase the number of data centers that were available. The need consequently, increased the level and need for a constant supply of power with consequences of high levels of toxins and other waste materials. For this reason, people started applying the green technology towards mitigating critical health and environmental issues.

Energy Star Ratings

U.S EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) launched a program dubbed the Energy Star Program which was the first major landmark as far as green computing history is concerned. The program is useful since it aims at separating computer hardware on the basis of efficiency in terms of energy use.

The introduction of “Sleep mode” was a significant impact since computers were in a position to maintain a very high rating. Such a mode allows computers to go on standby mode whenever there is no activity taking place. In 2007, the standards on Energy Star Specifications were revised which saw the adoption of very stringent rules concerning energy rating. The adopted specs included efficiency in the technology of computers with significant emphasis placed on the reduction of waste, complying to set regulations, policies in telecommunication along with accounting for the energy used. As such, all equipment that existed before required re-qualification in order to attain the Energy Star logo.

Green IT

The term Green IT takes into account all issues concerning technologies which are environmentally sound, their practices as well as systems. This study comprises of three methods that are IT enabled. These methods are geared towards environmental development and sustainability (Murugesan, 2012).

  • Designing, manufacturing, and disposing communication systems, computer related software and hardware in an effective way without affecting the environment negatively.
  • Using Information and Technology systems towards empowerment of environment conservation initiatives.
  • Awareness creation and green agenda promotion among stakeholder.

Green IT is not only works towards designing systems that are effective but also applying IT approaches in coming up with systems which use energy efficiently.

IT contributes to only about 2-3% of GHG emissions with most of these coming from sources that are not related to IT in any way. Therefore, it is evident that IT uses in some parts partly create significant improvement in the general sustainability of the environment through energy saving methods. If energy efficiencies were enabled in most other sectors of the economy, it would lead to reduction or carbon release to the environment to an approximate number- five times than without the interplay of IT. The achievement of such goals would mean that organizations are in a position to reduce their percentage contribution to environmental pollution.

Figure showing dimensions of Green IT

Holistic Approach to Green IT

Recent studies show that the effects of IT on the environment can only be addressed successfully if the necessary methods are put in place. However, there are six directions related to IT that need such an approach (Murugesan, 2012). These are:

  1. Green design where designing of components that are environmentally sound and energy-efficient is important.
  2. Green manufacturing; which lays emphasis on the fabrication of computer devices whereby the process causes little or no effects at all to the environment (Green & Scott, 2009).
  3. Green use looks at the reduction of the consumption of energy by IT systems along with the adoption of methods that are environmentally friendly.
  4. Green disposal. Refurbishing as well as the reuse of old IT systems added to proper means of recycling systems which are not in use.
  5. Green standards and metrics. These are needed for promoting, comparing and benchmarking sustainability initiatives, products, services and practices.
  6. Green IT policies and procedures; these effective and actionable strategies and policies add value and focus on both short- and long-term benefits.

The six fronts mentioned above are very instrumental in achieving full sustainability of the environment. Figure showing Holistic as well as a multipronged approach to Green IT

The use of Green IT in Healthcare Electronic Medical Records (EMRs)

The improvement in technology has led to changes in the recordings that are done in most healthcare organizations nowadays. The adoption of the Electronic medical records is the recent development as far as data recording in healthcare organizations is concerned. EMRs have replaced the paper charts that are found in doctor’s office showing patient records. The Electronic way of keeping patient’s records is more advantageous than the use of paper records. The electronic medical records are in a state of allowing the clinicians to (Murugesan, 2008):

  • Ease of identification on which should undergo what checkups.
  • Monitor the activities of the patients on set intervals of time and their response to medication.
  • Monitor changes and work towards improving the general quality of care within the practice.
  • Save natural resources because the system is environmentally friendly.

However, the only drawback with this system is that getting information from the Electronic Medical Records might be hard at times. For this reason, the records are printed out sometimes and sent through email for further analysis.

On the other hand, EHRs standing for Electronic Health Records is in a position to do all the above things that the EMRs cannot. The emphasis here is laid on the general patient’s health far from just the simple data collection in healthcare organizations. As such Electronic Health Records are fabricated in a way that they can go beyond the body responsible for initial collection and compilation of such information. The EHRs are designed in a way that data sharing between different healthcare providers is easy and fast. This way, the collected information, can be accessed at whatever level it is needed, be it at the nursing home, hospital or the specialist’s office. The record kinds can be compared which show the ability of Electronic Health Records to easily bring forth a system whereby information is efficiently shared to the concerned parties. As such, these records are meant to allow easy access.

Adoption of Telemedicine

Telemedicine refers to the electronic exchange of a medical report of patients from a single site to the other in order to improve the health status of patients. This technique makes use of services and uses that use smart phones, emails, tow-way video as well as wireless forms of communication to deliver information to the required destination. Telemedicine technology is nowadays being practiced in most areas within hospital units. Most people tend to think that telemedicine is a form of specialty that is separate from other practices. In fact, telemedicine related services and products create a high percentage that healthcare providers invest. Therefore, telemedicine and telehealth involve services such as e-health, signs monitoring through remote controls, still image transmissions as well as carrying out consultations by way of video conferencing.

What Are the Benefits of Telemedicine?

The rapid growth in telemedicine can be attributed to the fact that people have realized its worth in the healthcare organizations. As such, telemedicine has a number of benefits such as:

  1. Improved Access – this ensures that patients are able to access telemedicine services whenever in need.
  2. Cost Efficiencies - through telemedicine, one can reduce as well as maintain healthcare costs. Data about any chronic disease is managed well between different offices without incurring any travel expenses.
  3. Improved Quality – it is evident that the services that are delivered through telemedicine are far in terms of quality and efficient when compared to most other in-person consultations. In addition, telemedicine offers superior services in areas such as the Internal Critical Unit and Mental health.
  4. Patient Demand - the high quality and reliable services offered through telemedicine has increased its need in consumers. When in use, consumers are able to cut travel costs and still get reliable services through telemedicine. For many years since its adoption, telemedicine services have registered considerable customer satisfaction as well as access to healthcare providers is concerned. With such statistics, the need for telemedicine services is bound to increase even more as technology advances.

Green Data Center

What Makes a Data Center Green?

For a data center, green means two fairly different things:

  • Mainstream environmental and sustainability issues, such as those on which most of this book is based.
  • Floor space, Power, cooling, environmental health and safety issues, abbreviated as PCFE.

Mainstream environmental issues and PCFE concerns often lead to the same destination. However, one can pursue PCFE goals without any concern for the environment as a whole. PCFE is more about efficient use of resources and worker safety, which are more traditional organizational concerns than environmental and sustainability issues.

PCFE arises from the fact that demands on IT and therefore, on data centers, seem to always only escalate. Without PCFE, a data center could become extraordinarily large, need impractical amounts of power or cooling, and constitute an unsafe environment—and still face demands to grow further. PCFE is an effort to keep data centers manageable, in both the colloquial and business senses of the term.

To make a green data center, combine PCFE concerns with mainstream environmental and sustainability efforts. That way, one gets all the benefits of both approaches, without that much additional effort from just using one or the other.

Another factor that makes a data center green is virtualization. This is because, through Virtualization, one can handle computing resources separately as well as differentiating physical resources from the competing ones. A reliable example is whereby a machine that works on the basis of virtual software gives out the chance of hosting a number of uses successfully by use of a single physical machine and at times the vice versa if needed. In addition, the virtualization provides the user the opportunity to access all computing resources in form of a single pool, something that does away with issues of having to duplicate waste and equipment too. Despite the fact that virtualization is way too technical in terms of detailing, its use produces results that support green IT in healthcare provision.

Green IT can as well be applied in healthcare through Cisco Data Center Virtualization. Such data centers are aimed at delivery of support that is both scalable and cost-effective. In addition, it supports most other different needs that develop. For example:

  • The caregivers are needed to associate through interactive resources with their patients in order to efficiently relay information that may be needed at once.
  • Doing away with the use of manual papers as well as other analog forms of media along with the inception of digital ways of carrying out activities for efficiency purposes.
  • Allowing an environment that involves collaboration when carrying out any medical analysis.

Adoption of Combined Heat and Power Technologies in Healthcare

Electricity use on IT components has proved to be on the increase (Green & Scott, 2009). Such usage might result in the rise of greenhouse emissions to the environment along with other related waste which might have detrimental effects on the environment. Therefore, there is a need to adopt methods which in use will never cause harmful effects on the environment. For example, the use of combined heat and power in systems can go a long way towards minimization of the amount of electricity consumed by IT components. This kind of technology can produce thermal as well as electric energy effectively and can be used to:

  1. Effectively reduce the amount of greenhouse gas emitted to the environment.
  2. Minimize the costs incurred in acquisition as well as use of energy.
  3. Cause an improvement in most heath care facilities that can be needed in times of emergencies.
  4. Efficiently offer a better option in terms of fuel use.

Conclusion

Healthcare provision is a very essential part of any country’s economy. If the people in a country are health, it has the implication that they will work towards growth of the economy and the vice versa is also true. It is for such reasons that much emphasis ought to be put in the kind of technologies that are used in healthcare provision. For example, a polluted environment will likely affect the productivity of the people therein. Therefore, the first step towards a healthy lifestyle is dealing with factors that hinder environmental sustainability. Along these lines, the green IT is advocated.

Why then is the Green IT important in the healthcare system and the environment in general? Through the adoption of the Green IT along with its strategies, the world at large can manage an environment that is more sustainable and greener. Even though information technology has contributed negatively to some of environmental problems, research has shown that, its effective use can be highly beneficial in creation of a sustainable environment. The negative effects of IT come to play when the gadgets are disposed of recklessly as well as in the production of greenhouse gases. As aforementioned, the greenhouse gases are very harmful especially in destroying the ozone layer which leads to global warming.

Therefore, the green IT is the only alternative way through which a sustainable environment can be achieved. Due to the high demand for IT practices in major areas, the IT industry itself, is experience dramatic change to adopt new systems which are in line with the requirements of green IT. In addition, healthcare organizations have not been left behind in the change of systems to adopt new technologies that will improve the working as well as service provision of these organizations. From the foregoing, therefore, it is important to point out that green IT has brought revolutions to many sectors of the economy.

References

  1. Carayon, P. (2012). Handbook of human factors and ergonomics in health care and patient (safety) Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press.
  2. Dornfeld, D., & Linke, B. (2012). Leveraging technology for a sustainable world (1st ed.). Heidelberg: Springer.
  3. Green, N., & Scott, D. (2009). Virtual healthcare interaction (1st ed.). Menlo Park, Calif.: AAAI Press.
  4. Murugesan, S., & Gangadharan, G. (2012). Harnessing green IT . Chichester. West Sussex, UK: John Wiley & Sons.
  5. Reynolds, G. (2012). Ethics in information technology.New York: Cengage learning.
  6. Webster, A. (2006). New technologies in health care. Hound mills Basingstoke, Hampshire [England]: Palgrave Macmillan.

Related essays